Civil servants are blocking the government’s efforts to cut EU legislation after Brexit because they hold a “Remain bias”, attorney general Suella Braverman has claimed.
The cabinet minister said she had battled with officials who are unable “to conceive of the possibility of life outside of the EU”.
“Some of the biggest battles you face as a minister are, in the nicest possible way, with Whitehall and internally with civil servants, as opposed to your political battles in the chamber,” Ms Braverman told the Sunday Telegraph.
The government’s chief law officer – who campaigned for a Leave vote during the Brexit referendum – said the resistance to post-Brexit reforms was “something I didn’t expect”.
The attorney general said: “Don’t take this as an opportunity to bash the civil service. But what I have seen, time and time again, [is] that there is a Remain bias.”
Ms Braverman added: “I’ll say it. I have seen resistance to some of the measures that ministers have wanted to bring forward. Because there’s an inability to conceive of the possibility of life outside of the EU.”
The minister said the government’s Brexit Opportunities Bill would be “absolutely critical” to it easier for ministers to rip up retained EU rules as part of deregulation push.
While the government has struggled to explain to benefits of getting rid of obscure rules and regulations, Ms Braverman said “our new freedom after Brexit to ensure that British rules work for British companies”.
The attorney general is believed to have approved the scrapping of swathes of the Northern Ireland Protocol – giving Boris Johnson the legal cover to make his radical move to unilaterally replace a key part of his Brexit deal.
She reportedly submitted evidence arguing it would be legally sound because of the “unreasonable” way it has been implemented by the EU and the risk of “societal unrest” in Northern Ireland.
Her latest comments on Brexit come as German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and her Irish counterpart Simon Coveney made a rare joint statement condemning Mr Johnson’s protocol bill.
“There is no legal or political justification for unilaterally breaking an international agreement entered into only two years ago,” they said.
Ms Braverman also said on Sunday that a “rights culture” in Britain has “spun out of control” – blaming the European Court of Human Rights, after the highly-contentious deportation flight to Rwanda was stopped following an appeal to the Strasbourg court.
“The culture, the litigiousness around the rights-related culture, has turned on its head a lot of common-sense decisions, which are consistent with British values,” she stated. “The rights-based claims have stymied a lot of our immigration and asylum policy.”
The minister also lashed out at “stretched and strained interpretations” of the UK Human Rights Act by lawyers and judges – particularly Article Eight, the right to a private family life, and Article Three, the prohibition against torture.
The government’s plan for a replacement “bill of rights” exempts the government itself from having to comply with free speech protections, legal experts told The Independent.
Clauses included in the bill specifically exempt laws created by ministers from its new free speech test – meaning it will not protect people from the “various threats to free speech posed by the government”.